Sergio Berrueta is a journalist and writer based out of Southern California. He is a podcast host for Film A Week Podcast and former ELAC Campus News writer. Inspirations include Walt Disney, John Steinbeck, The Simpsons and Shel Silverstien.
The following is an excerpt from a novel currently in the works “The Prince and the Bean” by myself, Sergio Berrueta. I’ve been hard at work for close to a year on this project and hope to wrap up by the end of the year. This excerpt is to give a sample of what to expect from this longer retelling of the classic Hans Christen Anderson tale. Please read and please provide feedback. Thank you.
Once upon a time, as most stories of this nature go, there was a man named Sebastian Guerrero.
Guerrero was a man of noble virtue, valor and cunning. After all, these sort of skills are needed when being one of the top ranking generals in all of Mexico. Guerrero fit the bill of what it took to be in the army with his stern and stocky appearance, his fine mustache and his collection of fine dress as he lead the charge. He, alongside his army of thousands, rose up against the French intervention of Mexico. Guerrero, under the leadership of Porfirio Diaz, helped kick out Napoleon III’s troop and end Emperor Maximilian’s idiotic reign in the Battle of Miahuatlan.
The battle was grueling as the troops were nearly out of food, water and supplies, yet they continued and persevered as Guerrero encouraged his men to put all the struggle and frustration into the heart of battle and strive for the land they loved. After the various victory celebrations, parties and the occasional drunken rant or two, the men went home. Guerrero went back to his hometown of Xochimilco. Here he was declared a hero and welcomed with open arms. That same night, he met the woman of his dreams, Isabella Sanchez.
Her hair was a wonderful raven color, her eyes gleamed in the moonlight and her smile attracted him to her. She had been affected by the aftermath of the wars as she could not get the supplies needed. Guerrero went out of his way in order to find her the supplies in order to woo her and got to know her in the process. The two hit it off straight away, regain in stories of their youth and basking in the wonders in and around their town. They soon married and became very public figures in the community of Mexico City that one day, when the opportunity came, Guerrero was designated as honorary mayor and protector of not just Xochimilco, but all of Mexico City. He ruled alongside his wife from their beautiful Castillo de Guerrero, overlooking the city and villages as a whole. Though high in power, they never saw themselves as any better or any worse and the people of the city respected them too highly.
The two then welcomed a child into the world in the form of Catalina. Catalina was the General and Isabella’s golden child as she was the key to continuing the legacy. Catalina grew up to be such a beauty with her mother’s raven hair, eyes that emeralds would envy and a kindness and good natured heart. Sebastian knew around her eighteenth year of life, he had to find a way to marry her off to continue the name of Guerrero.
Sebastian was getting older and needed to find someone to help. He understood a woman in power was still up for ridicule by the public, despite the nature of Elizabeth I all those centuries ago. He needed to find a suitor to help his daughter carry on the name. Sebastian, along with his good army friend Mateo, a bald headed and slender man, came up with trials that would test the suitors that came in. These trials were known as “Las Labores de La Vida y Amor,” or the Labors of Love and Life as they tested the suitors on leadership, passion, generosity and sanity. These trials were grueling, hectic and laughed off as sheer insanity by those invited to participate. These trials were the only thing Sebastian hid from his people.
Meanwhile, Catalina was starting to grow sick and tired of the trials and Isabella was becoming more annoyed. It became an obsession for Sebastian to find a successor and to find someone perfect to fit his needs more so than his daughter’s. He was growing tired and weary until an unexpected player came in.
Chapter 1 “Como Te Voy A Olvidar”
“Alright. Here goes nothing. Just go out there and put on a show. I mean, you always do, why wouldn’t you? You love this job. You get to not be yourself. Yourself feels kind of weak, but you aren’t weak. No! You are strong. At least, that’s what this costume shows off. This show is all I got left, so might as well do it,” Tomas said to himself.
Tomas Maldonado was a charro or a rodeo man. He wrangled horses, rode bulls, charmed the crowd with songs, made women yearn for him and was the epitome of the modern use of the word “cool.” Outside of this obvious for show persona lies an awkward not-so confident man. He played this charmer well, but he couldn’t pull it off outside the arena. He has grown a bit distant from the town of Santo he loves by becoming secluded and staying in his dressing room instead of going back home with his brother Miguel.
He looked to fit the part well with his groomed short hair, his beautiful handmade charro outfit of black fabric, gold piping and the undershirt of white and red. His brown boots with gold spurs glimmered in the light of the sun and the moon. His sombrero was big as most are, but not too distracting from him. He was handsome, but not too handsome in the way that he was practically unobtainable.
“Five minutes till showtime!,” the manager said.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can be! Come on, Tomas. You got this. Now, vamos!,” Tomas said.
The Santo Arena was Tomas’ comfort zone. Here he got to be something he could never be, El Principe Santo or the Prince Saint. He was admired, loved and respected by everyone that attended the show. Tomas began the show with an introduction and was well known in town, even if his brother was the more well regarded one.
“Evening, people of Santo. Tonight, I shall be showing you the finest in entertainment. I’ve been here for more than a year doing my best to keep you at bay. Leave your troubles at the door, drama at home and the struggles that plague your mind aside as I shall make you ooh and ahh. I shall thrill you, excite you, and maybe, just maybe, entice you,” said Tomas as he winked to the ladies in the front row.
They swooned and Tomas smiled. Children loved the tricks he did with his horse Champurrado as Tomas used his lasso to make him jump through loops as he twirled and dance alongside him. Men envied him as he would unleash the wild bull Filemon in the arena as he would give chase and use his lasso to wrangle the bull as he stood on his horse and proceeded to hop from Champurrado onto Filemon with ease. Women fawned over him with his voice singing the ballads of the locals while displaying his heartbreaks and quest for love on the forefront. Tomas gave it his all, but was looking for a break to come his way.
“Thank you for all the love and support tonight. I will be taking a break for a while as I need to sort some personal things out, but I want you to know when I come back, I will come back stronger and braver,” he told the crowd.
The crowd applauded and praised him knowing he would be back as Tomas always had a place in town. The show ended as Tomas talked to the children, flirted with women and mingled with the men in the crowd all in his Principe persona. Tomas went back to his dressing room and began to make his cot.
“Tomas, you have a visitor,” the manager said.
“If it’s one of the ladies, tell them I’m tired and to come back soon enough. I would love to see them, but I am much too tired. Also, just between me and you, I don’t think I’m ready yet,” Tomas said.
Just then, a tall slender built man entered much to Tomas’ surprise.
“Hence maybe I’m glad I’m not one of the women as I would feel a bit stood up,” he said.
“You have better luck than I. You actually live the character. Maybe we should trade places one day,” Tomas said jokingly.
While Tomas was a local celebrity, his brother was the true hero. Miguel had been serving in the Mexican army for quite some time and had amassed a bevy of supporters. Miguel had saved the town years ago not only from the French, but from local bandidos from neighboring villages. Miguel, however, was more confident outside of his career than his brother and gladly accepted the hand of women and others that express a form of admiration.
“I don’t know how you can do it given your state of mind,” Miguel said. “I would be a wreck night after night.”
“Out in the arena, I don’t have to be myself. I get to be another person. I feel at home,” Tomas replied.
“I can tell. You haven’t been home in months,” Miguel said looking around the room. “You only live a walk away.”
He noticed the cot Tomas was sitting on in the room along with clothes hanging from some strings and wire. He saw Champurrado in his stable near the clothes and a small cooking pot with a fire pit underneath it. This was Tomas’ home for now after a shake-up in his life. The shake-up, as we will call it now, was something that triggered Tomas into keeping away from home. He had been lost, confused and terrified at the conflicts that had gone in his home.
“It’s all I have right now, Miguel. This is all I want. I can’t go back. You know I can’t go back,” Tomas said,
“I understand, but you haven’t told anyone else of why you are doing this,” Miguel said.
“Because it’s embarrassing. You think I want to run the risk of losing myself, my reputation and persona because of what happened?,” Tomas asked.
Miguel felt the uneasiness of the situation at hand. He can see in Tomas’ eye the frustration and the sadness of the shake-up’s effects. He briefly sighed and sat by his brother.
“Whatever happened, it happened. I can’t tell you to just get over it or ease out of it. It might take weeks and days, but it’s been nearly seven months. She probably has moved on by now, living life. You should do the same,” Miguel said to him.
“Yes, I understand, but you don’t see what exactly happened. You weren’t there,” Tomas said.
“I know I wasn’t and if I was, I would be in the same position you are, no matter how strong I am. Heck, I’m a softie like you sometimes, which brings me to why I am here,” Miguel said.
Miguel pulled out two letters from his hands, one reading From Rosalina and another reading To Miguel Maldonando, Under Request of General Guerrero. He opened the letter from Rosalina first.
“Rosalina? The girl you meet three months ago got back to you?,” Tomas asked.
“Not just got back to me, but suggested we elope,” Miguel said.
“Elope as in ‘you and me can get away for weekend and go to Cancun’ or elope as in ‘let’s runaway, get married and go to Cancun’?,” Tomas asked.
“The second option,” Miguel said smiling away.
“But you just met her! That’s kind of foolish of you,” Tomas said. “I mean, you probably barely know her common interests, her desires, her favorite type of pan dulce. I mean, you… ,” Tomas ranted until Miguel cut him off.
“Yes, but I’m mad for her and I know her more than others, so I figure why not? Oh, and her favorite is the concha. Do not get me started on answering,“ Miguel said.
“Wait, what about the one from the General?,” Tomas asked.
“Oh, that. Well, this was for me and only me, but it did say that I can send someone in honor of me if I am dead, out of service or wish to withdraw,” Miguel told Tomas as he handed him the letter.
“You could have also just sent it back,” Tomas replied.
“No, because this will be a good opportunity for you considering what you are still dealing with. Besides, you get to work alongside the General, show off your skills and tell him what a great brother he is missing out on,” Miguel joked.
“It always goes back to you, doesn’t it?,” Tomas said. “Alright, I will go. Let me just read the letter.”
Miguel suddenly grabs the letter.
“You have to promise me that you will not see the letter or open it till you arrive at the door, okay?,” Miguel requested.
“Wait, why? I have the right to see the letter,” Tomas said, confused by his brother’s request.
“I want it to be a surprise,” Miguel said.
“A surprise for the next three days? I’m going to get cautious,” Tomas replied.
“You’ll be fine. It’s army business.”
“Are you sure it isn’t a ruse?”
“It could be or it could not be.”
“Does it involve fighting?”
“You can say that.”
“If I honor it and go through with it, what do I receive?”
“Something you didn’t think you wanted. Maybe, a new horse.”
Champurrado neighed in disgust.
“Hmm…I’ll believe you. It better not be any funny business. That’s my job… sort of,” Tomas said.
“Tomas, I want you to know that what I am giving you is something that will make you become a better person. You fit the mold of what the General needs and wants. You’ve got this in your hand, not just figuratively or literally. I promise you that it will be much deserved. Besides, you’re taking a break anyway. Consider it a vacation, albeit an odd one,” Miguel said with a smile on his face.
Tomas knew his brother meant well. He trusted that smile before and knew what he had been given meant a lot to his brother.
“I’ll do this because I love you,” Tomas said, somewhat somber.
“Don’t do it just for me. Do it for yourself. You deserve it,” Miguel said. “Oh, by the way, leave tonight. You are expected in three days, remember?,” Miguel said.
“Crap, really?,” Tomas asked bewildered.
“Well, more like two days. I got this yesterday,” Miguel replied.
“That does not help. I have to pack and quick. See you soon, Miguel. Hope you and Rosalina have a good one!,” Tomas exclaimed. “Darn, how am I gonna fit the cooking pot?”
Miguel walked away and said under his breath as he closed the door.
“He’s gonna hate me for sending him to fight for love,” Miguel said.